Manuscript Status: Finished
Mentor Name: Mara Rutherford; co-mentor Jessie Humphries
Mentee Name: Joan He
Word Count: 88,000
When Princess Hesperia unwittingly hires a legendary assassin to investigate the king’s murder, she discovers that the centuries-long persecution of magicians and seers is building toward a revolution. Now on the brink of war, Hesperia must decide whom to trust in a court ruled by lies and divided by blood.
Silent as a tadpole, quick as a minnow, light as a dragonfly.
I recited the words in my head as I waded into the imperial pond. They were wisps from a childhood memory, faded from the years since Father last rocked me on his knee and taught me the tricks to evading my maids. But today was the blood trial, a day of sharpened sickles, crimson sand, and gurgled screams.
A day to run.
Mother anticipated my escape tactics by now; she’d sent her fastest maids to herd me back to the arena.
Jellyweeds and lilac silt grasped at the hems of my royal robes as I ventured deeper. When the fanreeds thickened, I wrapped myself in their glossy leaves.
The maids came to a stop on the bridge. Their shadows trickled over the stones and dappled the water.
“Sweet Hesperia, don’t be difficult,” called one while the others searched the nearby shrubs of nectar flowers.
My cocoon of fanreeds rustled as I shrank back, muttering prayers to the six gods.
They were answered with a slap of pond water against my back. I spun around.
Lilian hefted her bamboo net and grinned. Raw watersilk, still glistening with poison, overflowed from the five baskets beside her. “Enjoying your swim? Don’t worry, they’re gone.”
A ragged exhale escaped me. Watersilk worms fled from my path as I trudged up the bank. “You’ll kill me someday.”
“So let me guess what inspired your dip. Could it be…trial by blood?”